LONDON Parents will not be banned from smacking their children, the government said on Thursday, despite pressure from campaigners who say it is ineffective and sends mixed messages.
Ministers said the law in England and Wales will remain unchanged after a review found that most parents do not want a complete ban.
The government's critics called the decision a missed opportunity while opponents of a ban said it was rooted in common sense.
In a statement, Children's Minister Kevin Brennan said: "The government will retain the law in its current form, in the absence of evidence it is not working satisfactorily."
The government ordered the review after the law was tightened in 2004. At the time, ministers said they wanted to protect children without criminalising parents.
Under the current law, parents can smack their children as long as it doesn't leave bruises, grazes or swelling.
The Children's Commissioner for England Al Aynsley-Green said he was disappointed by the decision not to ban it outright.
"(I) see this as a missed opportunity to protect children from violence in the home," he said. "Children and young people should have the same right to protection under the law on common assault as that afforded to adults.
"By not changing the legislation, we continue to send out confusing messages to parents about the acceptable use of violence across society."
Parents should control their children with different methods, such as taking away toys or banning TV, he added.
However, Conservative Shadow Children's Minister Tim Loughton said the decision was a victory for common sense.
"Clearly, if any adult is responsible for abuse and violence towards a child they need to face the full rigour of the law," he said.
"But there is a world of difference between that and criminalising loving parents that use chastisement as they see fit in the interest of their child."